To know what is unethical, you have to first know what is ethics.
The word ethics has been defined in various ways. It is the study of people’s rights and duties, the moral rule that guide people in decision making and the nature of the relationships among people (Stoner et al, 2009).
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary define ethics as rules of behaviour based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.
In essence, ethics means a behavioural code relating to what is right or wrong subscribed to by a group of people or an organisation that guides their relationship with one another.
Man is predisposed to different behavioural tendencies. On the one hand, man shows love, kindness, forgiveness, cooperation, truthfulness, trustworthiness and working towards the common good of the community in which he lives. On the other hand, acts of cheating, telling lies, stealing and other unwholesome behaviours are also noticeable in his character.
Some of the behaviours stated above are inimical to the cohesion and progress of society and business organisations while others uphold and strengthen the development of society.
Given the above, man is therefore challenged to come up with rules of conduct to ensure that members of society, groups or business organisations relate to one another and to institutions in such a way that stated goals are realised. The field of ethics therefore evolved as a means of establishing what is right or wrong in human behaviour in order to ensure a better society.
Unethical behaviours and practices cut cross all sectors of the Nigerian economy. Ovuakporie (1994) in Osigbu (2008) reported unethical practices in the banking sector to include forgeries, payment against uncleared effects, defalcation, over-invoicing factious accounts, over-evaluation of status reports, duplication of cheque book, lending to ghost borrowers and embezzlement.
In the workplace, collecting illegal fees from prospective employees before job offers are made not uncommon. In the face of the high unemployment in the country unscrupulous employers collect fees for application form, processing fees, etc.
For example the Nigeria Immigration Service in 2014 asked prospective employees to pay the sum of ₦1000.00 (one thousand naira) application fee, which the Nigeria Senate considered illegal and ordered the body to make a refund. Similarly the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) requested job applicants to pay ₦1000.00 application fee. However, it was directed by the Code of Conduct Bureau to refund the money. Several years ago some top officials of KBR a former subsidiary of Halliburton made unofficial payments to high-ranking staff of Nigeria LNG Limited in order to influence the award of contracts in their favour. The Halliburton officials were convicted on charges of bribery by the United States of American government.
The proliferation of fake drugs and food items in the country led to the establishment of the National Agency for Food, Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Before the advent of NAFDAC, the unwholesome practices of manufacturers and importers of fake and adulterated drugs and food items led to the death and injury of many Nigerians.
Unethical conduct is also found amongst government officials charged with the responsibility of collecting taxes and duties. Such officials under estimate tax payable after collecting bribes from tax payers. Also judges and electoral officials have been sanctioned for perverting justice by declaring losers as winners in electoral contest. Fraud cases involving highly placed Nigerians usually end up without punishment or attract light sentences and in some cases end up with Presidential pardon.